Thinking environment and health together

The German Environmental Council advises the federal government. Get to know its chairwoman here: Claudia Hornberg.

Claudia Hornberg heads the German Advisory Council on the Environment.
Claudia Hornberg heads the German Advisory Council on the Environment. picture alliance/dpa

The German government is advised in many important areas concerning Germany by experts from science and research. We introduce you to the most important persons and committees. Here Professor Claudia Hornberg, Chairwoman of the Advisory Council on the Environment.

Health, as we have all experienced during the coronavirus pandemic, is the main thing. We know what is needed for this: a well-functioning healthcare system, a balanced diet and sufficient exercise. For Claudia Hornberg, something else is also needed, namely an intact environment. That means clean air, clean water, little noise, lots of greenery in the city and, last but not least, ambitious climate protection.

Hornberg's name may not be familiar to everyone. Yet the professor of medicine at the University of Bielefeld is an important thought leader who has helped initiate crucial developments in environmental, climate and health policy. Hornberg has not only headed one of the oldest and highest-profile advisory bodies to the German government since 2016, the German Advisory Council on the Environment, or Umweltrat for short; for 20 years, the biologist, ecologist and specialist in hygiene and environmental medicine has also been concerned with the connections between the environment and health. The fact that both belong together and must be thought of together is her life's theme.

Environmental protection means quality of life

Hornberg has thus contributed to a change in awareness. Environmental protection is no longer seen primarily as a policy of regulation and prohibition. The focus is now on the benefits. For if the environment and nature are protected, as Hornberg's research also shows, well-being and quality of life improve - and so also important conditions for a healthy life.

The Environmental Council has also presented ground-breaking papers under Hornberg's leadership. One example: in climate policy, the Council has called for a CO2 budget for Germany, that is, a kind of account showing the total amount of CO2 which may still be emitted. The German Constitutional Court was guided by this approach when it handed down its historic climate ruling in spring 2021. The German government soon thereafter tightened up its climate protection law.

The new medical faculty at the University of Bielefeld, which Hornberg has been building as founding dean since 2018, may also become a pioneering project. She has brought family physicians onto the team and made practical experience for students, beginning in the first semester, part of the curriculum. The aim is to improve general medical care in rural areas. And with it the quality of life.

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